Thursday, March 24, 2016

Open letter to Linda McAvan MEP on sales of arms to Saudi Arabia, and response

Dear Linda McAvan,

I am writing to urge you to support the European Parliament Joint Motion for a Resolution on the humanitarian situation in Yemen (2016/2515(RSP)) and the related amendment (2) scheduled for plenary vote on Thursday 25 February.

I am deeply concerned about the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, and the EU's complicity through its continuing arms sales.

The Saudi-led bombing of Yemen is fuelling a humanitarian disaster. Thousands of civilians have been killed, and the UN reports that 80% of the population now require humanitarian assistance. Yet the UK and other European governments have continued to support the air strikes and provide arms despite strong evidence of war crimes being committed. The UK government licensed an astounding £2.8 billion of weapons sales to Saudi Arabia in the six months after the bombing started.

A recent UN report has detailed more than 100 possible breaches of international humanitarian law by the Saudi-led coalition, with the targets including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure.

EU Member States still transferring arms to Saudi Arabia are clearly breaching EU Common Position 2008/944/CFSP on arms exports control.

Please support the resolution and call for an immediate embargo on arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Yours sincerely,


Tom Franklin





Dear Mr Franklin,

Thank you for emailing me about the Motion for a resolution on the Humanitarian Situation in Yemen, which passed with a large majority during the recent vote in the European Parliament Plenary Session on 25 February 2016. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying as well.

The resolution was put down at the initiative of Labour and our Socialist colleagues in the European Parliament because of the appalling violation of human rights that women, children and men are facing in Yemen and it therefore had our strong support. We also tried hard to get MEPs from other parties to support it. We resisted attempts to water down the language – it was a straight 'for' and 'against' vote on the specific amendment on the arms embargo. The vote on the embargo passed with 359 in favour and 212 against – Conservative and UKIP MEPs either voted against or abstained.

The resolution recognises abuses on all sides in Yemen and seeks to uphold the EU Code of Conduct on arms exports, which already prohibits the export of arms where these may be used in contravention of international humanitarian law.

We will continue to do everything we can to work for a peaceful settlement in Yemen and I, as chair of the Committee on International Development, will try to ensure there is continuing humanitarian support for the people of Yemen.

Yours sincerely

Linda McAvan MEP

Yorkshire and the Humber

Constituency Office: 79 High Street, Wath-upon-Dearne, South Yorkshire S63 7QB

www.lindamcavanmep.org.uk

Friday, March 18, 2016

Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP on the cuts in disability benefit

Dear Mr Sturdy,

As I am sure you know in the recent budget George Osborne has proposed reducing the amount of benefit available to people with disabilities.  This cut, amounting to £4.4 billion, will cause real hardship for a great many people already facing the burden of disabilities.  For many it will effectively imprison them within their own home, others will not be able work and many will have to choose between heating or food.

The budget showed that there is money available.  The raise in higher income tax rate threshold, for instance, will only affect the richest 15% of the population and the reduction in capital gains tax rates a similar proportion of the population.

I am therefore writing to ask you to press the chancellor to drop these iniquitous cuts, that would, inevitably, lead to the party being labelled “the nasty party” again.

Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin
4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH
email:    tom@franklin-consulting.co.uk
mobile: 07989 948 221

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Open Letter to Julian Sturdy on use of nuclear weapons

Dear Mr Sturdy,

Thank you for your letter of 11 February outlining your position on nuclear weapons where you say that you would not rule out the first use of nuclear weapons, and by implication of other things that you say in the letter that you would be willing to see nuclear weapons used against countries that do not possess any.

Given this I would be grateful if you could tell me under what circumstances you personally would be willing to see nuclear weapons being used, as I think that some clarity in the debate would be really helpful

Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin
4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH
email:    tom@franklin-consulting.co.uk

Monday, March 07, 2016

Open letter to Julian Sturdy MP on the fuel duty escalator

Julian Sturdy MP
House of Commons, London

Dear Mr Sturdy,

Sometimes it is unpopular to do the right thing, but that is what genuine leadership takes.  I am therefore writing to you to ask you to do something which is likely to be unpopular, but which is vital.

I am writing to ask you to press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise fuel duty by more than the rate of inflation in the forthcoming budget.  We know that global warming is the greatest threat that faces humanity worldwide, and we know that we need to vastly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) that we produce if we are to prevent catastrophic global warming that would leave much of York under water.

There is very strong evidence that fuel usage is at least partially elastic (ie usage in part reflects cost).  We have also seen a significant reduction in the cost of fuel, with the fall in the price of crude oil.  In order to encourage a reduction in the use of petrol and diesel we need to use all the methods available including improving public transport, encouraging more walking and cycling (for instance to get to school) and raising the price of fuel.  There can be no better time than now to increase fuel duty as it will be less problematic for consumers given the fall in prices over the last few months and it will help to raise revenue to enable us to preserve essential services such as the NHS and education.

I hope that you will press the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise fuel duty.

Best wishes
Tom.
Tom Franklin
4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH
email:    tom@franklin-consulting.co.uk

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Open letter to Julian Sturdy re: Investigatory Powers Bill

Dear Mr Sturdy,

Thank you for your letter of 29 February regarding the Investigatory Powers Bill.  As I am sure you are aware a new version of the bill has been tabled, which in many ways is even worse than the previous version of the bill, and fails to take account of most of the criticisms from the three parliamentary committees that have looked at it.

While you may be happy that the current government will not abuse those powers (and hopefully you will be correct) experience shows that once these powers are available they will be abused.  We have seen this again and again with security related acts, and acts that infringe on civil liberties, from governments of all parties.  It is therefore essential that this Bill has the right balance between the need to investigate (potential) criminal activity and civil rights. 

Others have more knowledge and experience and will produce more detailed criticisms than I can, but here are just some of the problems with the new version of the bill:
The bill proposes collecting far more information than any other country deems necessary in terms of browser history;
  • The Bill endorses GCHQ's existing extensive and intrusive surveillance powers that were revealed by Edward Snowden, rather than rolling them back. This includes powers of bulk collection and analysis of data collected by tapping Internet cables, ie. Tempora. GCHQ should concentrate on targeting suspected criminals, not collecting information on law-abiding citizens.
  • The Bill includes the security agencies' powers to break into our laptops and mobile phones, including worrying new powers for non-targeted 'mass hacking', which may mean, for example, getting Apple to push out a compromised update to lots of phones. There can be no justification for mass hacking of computers, indeed Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights specifically states “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.” Hacking computers of innocent people, which the bill would allow, is clearly in breach of this.
  • Requiring companies to issue compromised security is bad for all of us.  We have enough problems with hacking as it is, and it would not take criminal elements long to exploit these weaknesses, for little or no demonstrable benefit.
  • There is a lack of judicial oversight.  Again, whilst you may be happy that the current government will not abuse these powers (and that is na├»ve as all previous governments have) the bill needs to think about what future governments might do too.


In short while the revised bill addresses some concerns in other important respects it is even worse, and most of the issues identified by the parliamentary committees have yet to be addressed.

I am therefore asking you to write to the minister expressing your concern and demanding that he addresses all the issues raised by the committees about the bill.

I hope that you will be unable to support the bill in its current form.

Best wishes

Tom.

PS to save on postage and paper in austerity Britain I am perfectly happy to receive responses by email.

Tom Franklin

4 Frazer Court
York
YO30 5FH